I remember it well. The days leading up to and following the new year everyone was on Facebook proclaiming that this one just had to be better than last. I recall thinking “Maybe you’d better buckle up, because things can always get worse” but refraining from typing the words because I’m an adult. With a brain. And some common sense. Well, most of the time.
Then the unthinkable happened. 2018 roared in like a lion on steroids with a ravenous appetite for my family. Perhaps there is a similar lion in your world; I’m sort of busy over here manipulating a chair and whip while nursing bloody wounds where hearts are supposed to beat with joy and anticipation, but I see you there. This is for you, friend.
- Well-meaning people are going to ask questions like “Are you okay?” when they know full well you can’t possibly be okay. The only correct answer is the honest one. If you are not okay, let it be known. If they care, an arm will slip around your shoulder and they will stick around without judgment for the tears and whatever else leaks out of you. If they don’t, they’ll find a quick excuse to walk away but they’ll know the truth…and so will you.
- You might be mad. Did you know that’s okay? I have it on the authority of King David that God can handle our anger, so trust me on this one. He isn’t creating our difficulties, but He is aware of them and we can vent to the one who knows it all and loves unconditionally.
- Get ready to be amazed. There are two extremes and you will experience both. There are going to people who won’t be willing to join you in your misery. When I say that I’m not referring to some pity party, rather the reality that is your present circumstance. In the words of the icy Disney princess, let them go. Or in the words of Taylor Swift, shake them off. Either way…be done with them. They aren’t worth your limited energy. But you are also going to be blown away by the people who see you and respond with the purest of love. These are not the “Go, keep warm and be well fed” church crowd that James warns of; they are the ones who show up with whatever you need, usually before you know you need it. You might not even know them yet, but they love Jesus and you.
- Step away from social media. In the middle of your hard season you don’t need to be constantly exposed to everyone else’s highlight reels. Do ask your friends to share their greatest joys with you personally – send those cute photos and funny memes right to your phone or inbox.
- Continue doing the things you love with the people you love as much as possible. Live even when it feels like you might die.
If you have a friend who is in this place right now, may I suggest some things you can do for them?
- Stay in touch. Ask “How are you?” and be willing to hear an honest answer. Listen – with compassion and intention.
- Ask what they need; make sure they know you sincerely want to help.
- Pursue time together. Ask them to come for dinner/family game night/coffee. Insist, even if it means taking the food to their house and handling prep, serving and cleanup.
- Share your joy. They not only can handle it, they need it.
- Refrain from giving too much advice or opinion, especially if they have a team of professionals.
- Pray for them and listen to God’s prompts for ways to help. Make it your goal to be their biggest encourager.
Trouble rushes in like a tidal wave of disgusting, powerful water and sweeps away normal. If you are barely keeping your head above water, keep treading. If the flood has subsided and you are faced with the muddy aftermath, keep trusting.
Hope and confidence in God is our lifeline; this is the verse that I return to again and again. I pray it encourages your heart as well.
Because of the Lord’s great love for us we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Waiting in hope,